Top 10 cat behavior tips - Veterinary Medicine
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Top 10 cat behavior tips
Pass these words of wisdom on to cat owners to put to immediate use.


In this study, multiplicity of handlers improved scores on the holding and the readiness to play tests. No significant differences were noted between the kittens of domestic origin and the kittens of feral origin in common problem behaviors reported by owners. There was also no difference in owners' total satisfaction with their pets between domestic-origin and feral-origin kittens. This study supports the data found in earlier studies that the sensitive socialization period in kittens appears to end at about 7 weeks of age. It also suggests that feral kittens can make acceptable pets if people have realistic expectations.

Socializing a young kitten to people would include having it in the home as opposed to outdoors so that the kitten is exposed to typical household activities and noises. Daily gentle handling by people in the form of holding and petting is advised. Engaging the cat in play with safe toys is also recommended.


Litter boxes are often designed to please cat owners instead of cats, as most people want to keep cat elimination a small part of their cat ownership experience. So commercially available litter boxes tend to be compact. And because many cats are overweight,11 a drastic discrepancy exists between litter box size and cat size, with the boxes being too small for cats to comfortably move around in. A covered box further reduces maneuverability.

Figure 1. A litter box with high sides and a cut-out opening.
Suggesting that clients purchase large, uncovered plastic storage containers or similar items to use as litter boxes may help reduce elimination problems. A good rule of thumb is that the box should be one and a half times longer than the length of the cat. Senior cats with reduced mobility may appreciate a low-sided box or entry area to ease accessibility (Figure 1).


Cats are known for their fastidious behavior—grooming takes up a good portion of their time, only second to sleeping.12 Despite this fact, many owners do not regularly scoop out and wash their cats' litter boxes. It is no wonder that many cats develop aversions to dirty litter boxes and seek alternative sites for elimination. I suggest that owners scoop twice daily and routinely wash the boxes with soapy water. The frequency of washing is dictated by litter type—boxes containing litter that clumps the urine for scoop removal will need less frequent washing (about once every two to four weeks) than boxes containing nonclumping litter (about once a week). Since plastic can accumulate odors over time, after washing a litter box, an owner should sniff it to check for residual odor. If the owner can detect a urine odor, it is probably time to replace the box.


Figure 2. Offer cats a variety of options when selecting litters and boxes.
To discover what a cat likes, especially concerning its litter box options, ask the cat. Set up a cafeteria-style selection of different litters and boxes, and allow the cat to indicate its favorite by use (Figure 2). Most cats prefer finely particulate, sandlike unscented litter material (clumping litter) and large uncovered boxes.13,14


If several cats are kept indoors, they must be given an environment of plenty to prevent and manage behavior problems. An environment of plenty includes multiple feeding, water, and litter box locations and multiple single-cat-size sleeping perches. At a minimum, there should be one station for each cat, but in households with behavior problems, this may be increased to two or more stations per cat. Adding stations increases the space and decreases potential spots of conflict among cats.


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